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(0980 – 1037)

(Born: Afshana, near Bukhārā, 980 A.D.; Died: Hamadhān, 1037 A.D.) Arabic encyclopaedist, philosopher, physician, mathematician & astronomer.

Avicenna (Arabic: Abū `Alī al-Husain ibn `Abdallāh ibn Sīnā) is the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places and times. He authored a great number of treatises in prose and verse, most of them in Arabic and a few in Persian. His philosophy roughly follows that of the Aristotelian tradition as modified by Muslim theology. His Qānūn fī-l-tibb (Canon of Medicine) is an immense encyclopedia of medicine, condensing the whole of ancient and Muslim knowledge, which had wide influence during the Middle Ages.

Biographical references: Catalogue of Portraits of Naturalists: 132 [2 portraits listed]. DSB: 15, 494-501. Jewish Biographical Archive: 106, 225-262 / S13, 344-351. Poggendorff: 1, col. 78. Sarton, Introduction, 1928-52: 1, 709-13. WBI.

1. Latin, 1682.
Gebri, | Regis Arabum | Philosophi Perspi- | cacissimi, | Summa perfectionis magisterii in | sua natura; | Ex Bibliothecæ Vaticanæ Exemplari | undecunq; emendatissimo edita, | Cum vera genuinaq delineatione Vaso- | rum & Fornacum. | Deniq; libri Investigationis Magiste- | rii & Testamenti ejusdem Gebri, | ac | Aurei Trium Verbo- | rum Libelli, | & | Avicennæ, Summi Medici & acutis- | simi Philosophi, Mineralium additio- | ne Castigatissima. | [ornate rule] | Gedani, | Apud Brunonem Laurentium Tancken. | Anno M DC LXXXII.

8°: [22], 278 [i.e., 272] p., 9 plates. Pages 113-118 omitted in numbering. Head- and tailpieces; initials. There is also an engraved titlepage reading: "Gebri, Regis Arabum Chymia."

Rare. An early Latin edition of Avicenna's De Congelatione et Conglutinatioine Lapidum or Mineralia is included in this collection of alchemical writings, featuring Geber's Summa Perfectionis, Liber Investigationis, and Testamentum. Also contained in the volume the Merlini Alegoria, the Expositio Epistolae Alexandri, Kallid's Liber Trium Verborum, a letter by Faustus Sabaeus, and several other alchemical works and discriptions of the philosopher's stone. Geber the European name given to Jābir ibn Hayyan was allegedly an 8th-century Arab alchemist whose name is attached to hundreds of writings ranging from the 9th to 13th centuries. Although he did not author all of these works and in fact may not even have actually lived, the books authored in his name were the most advanced and influential alchemical texts of Islam. Many works later attributed to him, including the Summa Perfectionis, most probably were written by a later alchemist who wrote under Geber's reputation. This work that may be only translations of other Arabic texts became incorporated into Jābir's corpus, the influence of which became the greatest of any alchemical writings in the West. Geber's advocacy of the sulphur-mercury theory of metals and his description of chemical methods became the premier impetuses of medieval alchemy and chemistry.

Bibliographical references: Bibliotheca Esoterica: no. 1843. BL [14546.a.6.]. Caillet, Manuel, 1912: no. 4424. Duveen, Bibliotheca Alchemica et Chemica, 1965: p. 240. Ferguson, Bibliotheca Chemica, 1906: 1, p. 300. LKG: III 10.

2. Latin & English, 1927 [English transl.].
Avicennae | De | Congelatione Et Conglutinatione Lapidum | Being Selections Of The | Kitâb Al-Shifâ' | The Latin and Arabic texts | edited | with an English Translation of the latter and with | critical notes | by | E.J. Holmyard, M.A., M.Sc., F.I.C., M.R.A.S., | Head of the Science Department, Clifton College, Bristol, | and | D.C. Mandeville, | Clifton College | Librairie Orientaliste | Paul Geuthner | 13, rue Jacob, Paris | 1927.

8°: [i]-viii, [2], [1]-85 p. Page size: 214 x 140 mm.

Contents: [i-ii], Half title page, "Avicennae | De | Congelatione Et Conglutinatione Lapidum," verso blank.; [iii-iv], Title page, verso blank.; [v]-viii, "Preface."; [1 pg], "Contents."; [1 pg], Blank.; [1]-14, "Introduction."; [15], Sectional title page, "English Translation of the Arabic Text."; [16], Blank.; [17]-42, Text of Arabic translation.; [43], Sectional title page, "Text of the Latin Version."; [44], Blank.; [45]-55, Text of Latin translation.; [56], Blank.; [57]-58, "Select Bibliography."; [59]-63, "Index Of Persons."; [64]-67, "Subject Index."; [68], Blank.; [69]-86, Arabic text.

Scarce. The "De mineralibus," appended, in medieval Arabic-Latin versions, to the fourth book of the Meteorologica of Aristotle. It is "partly a direct translation and partly a résumé" of passages in Avicenna's Kitâb al-shifâ' (Book of the remedy), made by Alfred of Sareshel.-Introduction.

The Avicenna contains a Latin Text, the Arabic Text, and an English translation, with considerable critical and introductory material. The text claims to be a book of Aristotle's "Physics," and on the surface it describes the formation of minerals and mountains, though the Arabic title, translated "The Book of the Remedy" points to certain secrets which must be embedded within.

From a scientific point of view, Avicenna's opinions on the formation of stone, rocks, and mountains are remarkably interesting in that they show an astonishing insight into the geological process. He is clear and concise in his remarks on the nature of minerals and in particular is ruthless in his criticism of the alchemists and their attempt to transmute the base metals into gold.

Facsimile reprint, 1982: New York, AMS Press, 1982. An unaltered reprinting of the 1927 text. ISBN: 0404184472.

Early printing of the Latin text, 1610: An earlier Latin edition appeared as: "Avicenna De Congelatione et Conglutinatione Lapidum; De Alchemia," in: Artis Auriferae, 1 (1610), pp. 240-245, 260-280 [Cf. NUC 27, 567, NA0528729].

Bibliographical references: Isis: 9 (1924), ?? [review]. NUC: 27, 567 [NA 0528731].

Avicenna's Mineralibus

The text of Avicenna's Mineralibus was not generally recognized as his during the Middle Ages but was included instead with the writings of Aristotle. Therefore, when mechanical printing was introduced, the text was included with the Meteorologica and Secretum Secretorum of Aristotle.

Aristotle Opera.- Meteorologica. (Padua, 1472, and other editions).
See under: Aristotle.

Aristotelis, philosophorum maximi, Secretum secretorum ... Ejusdem de Mineralibus ... (Boloniæ, 1501, and other editions).
See under: Aristotle.